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Landscape connectivity among remnant populations of guanaco (Lama guanicoe, Müller, 1776) in an arid region of Chile impacted by global change.

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journal contribution
modified on 13.02.2018, 14:55
Connectivity between populations plays a key role in the long-term persistence of species in fragmented habitats. This is of particular concern for biodiversity preservation in drylands, since water limited landscapes are typically characterized by little suitable habitat cover, high habitat fragmentation, harsh matrices, and are being rapidly degraded at a global scale. In this study, we modelled landscape connectivity between 11 guanaco Lama guanicoe populations in Chile's arid Norte Chico, a region that supports the last remnant coastal populations of this emblematic herbivore indigenous to South America. We produced a habitat suitability model to derive a regional surface resistance map, and used circuit theory to map functional connectivity, investigate the relative isolation between populations, and identify those that contribute most to the patch connectivity network. Predicted suitable habitat for L. guanicoe represented about 25% of the study region (i.e. 29,173 km2) and was heterogeneously distributed along a continuous stretch along the Andes, and discontinuous patches along the coast. As a result, we found that high connectivity current flows in the mid and high Andes formed a wide, continuous connectivity corridor, enabling connectivity between all high Andean populations. Coastal populations, in contrast, were more isolated. These groups demonstrate no inter-population connectivity between themselves, only with higher altitude populations, and for two of them, animal movement was linked to the effectiveness of wildlife crossings along the Pan-American highway. Our results indicate that functional connectivity is an issue of concern for L. guanicoe in Chile’s Norte Chico, implying that future conservation and management plans should emphasize strategies aimed at conserving functional connectivity between coastal and Andean populations, as well as the protection of habitat patches likely to act as stepping stones within the connectivity network.

The raw material it is composed of three folders:

1. Maxent_products folder contains the main results and analysis of Maxent model results plus ocurrences data used for modelling.
2. ResistanceSurf folder: this folder show the final landscape resistance used to build the connectivity model by using Circuitscape program.
3. Circuitscape matrix folder: contains the resistance matrix generated by circuitscape as from logistic output of maxent model.

This study has been sumitted to PeerJ journal.


This study was supported by a grant from the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB) of Chile and the South America-Barrick Gold Corporation.